300,000 homes are lying empty, claim academics
MORE than 300,000 houses are lying empty around the country -- equivalent to half of all homes in Dublin.
Academics say this is three times the official estimate of vacant properties and could be enough to meet the demand for new homes for years.
The figure was worked out by the National Institute of Regional and Spatial Analysis (NIRSA), based at NUI Maynooth, which advises the Government.
It is up to three times the estimate from Housing Minister Michael Finneran, who told the Cabinet last week that there were between 100,000 and 140,000 houses lying empty.
The construction industry had suggested that the figure was only 40,000.
Professor Rob Kitchin and colleagues used the GeoDirectory (Ireland's national address database), the 2006 census and Department of Environment figures based on ESB connection points.
They concluded that 302,625 houses were not inhabited.The figure does not include an estimated 49,000 holiday homes.
Prof Kitchin said the scale of available housing should turn the construction industry away from housing and towards infrastructure, particularly broadband, energy supply, roads and public transport.
"I would say there is a few years' housing supply there," he said.
"This is particularly true in the rural counties, where there is a huge oversupply."
But he added there were questions about whether the surplus housing was in areas where it will be needed when the economy begins to grow again.
"There is 30pc vacancy in Leitrim, while the midlands and western counties have higher rates of vacancy. Dublin which has the lowest at under 10pc," he said.
It is believed there are around 200 so-called 'ghost estates', developments that have been built over the past few years but where the houses remain unsold.
Mr Finneran said he wanted to see some of these used to house the 56,000 people currently on housing waiting lists.